The DIY label’s founders talk finding empowerment in a femininity that is unashamedly pink and sparkly
If you haven’t heard of Me and You, you’ve seen their work on your Instagram feed. From reinvented granny panties with the word ‘feminist’ splashed across the butt to Amandla Stenberg’s ‘Don’t Touch’ sweater, the brainchild brand of Julia Baylis and Mayan Toledano has been turning heads since launching its first lookbook a year ago. Recently, they joined up with radical street-casting agency Lorde Inc for a sun-soaked shoot, passing the mic to models Azha and Rewina to get their thoughts on representation and how the internet is carving out new spaces for POC youth. For their new lookbook and collaboration with jewellery mavericks Bing Bang NYC, Me and You teamed up with best friend and past collaborator Petra Collins for a sparkly new set of images. Debuted here and starring Instagram babes Diana Veras, Barbara Ferreira and Jani Lucid, the shots celebrate everything girly – emoji nail transfers included.
How much is a subversion or reclamation of ideas of girlishness important to what you do?
Julia Baylis: The focus of the shoot was Me and You’s collaboration with Bing Bang NYC – we are super-excited about the pieces from the collaboration because we feel like, for girls and women jewellery, is so important to self-expression, as well as being incredibly personal. We loved the idea of being able to contribute to that experience and make a piece that someone could wear everyday and cherish. Girlishness is actually something that makes us feel incredibly powerful, and all three of us find comfort in that side of our personality.
Mayan Toledano: The sparkly emoji aspect came in early on when we started designing for this collaboration, it’s a dream for us to bring the Me and You world into jewellery. Very similar to underwear, jewellery is one of the first things you put on and the last to take off, so we find it super-personal. We love customising everything we own with stickers, glitter and whatnot. Our type of girl culture is strongly rooted in the idea of celebrating our femininity to the max. Gender is a way of performance and we choose to play it out, have fun with it – it is a powerful thing to have.
How has the internet given you a platform for putting your work out there?
Mayan Toledano: The internet is where we get to be ourselves and share our truthful experiences without having to edit out what is normally hidden. We found our own little safe corner with like-minded girls and collaborators.
How important is it to keep things DIY or to exist outside of the typical structures of fashion?
Julia Baylis: So important. All three of us would rather work together on any project, no matter how casual or professional. Working with the people you are closest to allows for the utmost spontaneity and experimentation.
How do you both approach casting?
Mayan Toledano: It all comes together naturally, we have our girls and they have us. Barbie and Diana have been huge muses and supporters from day one – the type of girls we choose to photograph are integral to our message.
Julia Baylis: Most of the girls we use we find through Instagram. Diana and Barbara have been Me and You models since the beginning. They are amazing, sweet, powerful, inspiring girls. Jani was a new addition this time for us, and completely stepped up to the task – she’s next level, wow!
“Feminism isn’t a trend for us, it is part of who we are” – Mayan Toledano
How do you think that Barbara, Jani and Diana are changing perceptions of what a ‘typical’ model should be?
Mayan Toledano: Fashion labels ‘otherness’ as a way of elevating its own flawed ideals of beauty, trying to be exclusive when what you really get is a repeated, boring image. All of our models are real muses and inspirations to us, the type of personalities that have voices to be heard. They are real influencers that we hope will help support other girls too.
Feminism is definitely ‘trending’ right now, as more and more people and companies use it to define themselves and sell products. How can you keep your work authentic in the face of this?
Mayan Toledano: It’s always funny when people think of us as a ‘brand’ when really it’s just two best friends trying to create a fantasy world in a little apartment. Me and You, the products, are simply an extension of our other work and passions as artists. Feminism isn’t a trend for us, it is part of who we are so inevitably it shows in our work and we are totally comfortable with that. When we started we didn’t try to sell anything at all, we made a few things for ourselves and for our friends and with the support we got online we realised more people want to participate. I think authenticity is expressed in passion and we are both super-motivated to support girls by creating new positive imagery and the type of clothing that brings out the girl in everyone.
Julia Baylis: When we started Me and You, there were no brands or mainstream artists that promoted feminism. Not only that, most people didn’t even want to identify as feminist. We wanted to create a world that celebrated the word and showed off our version of approachable, feminine feminism that would relate to a 21st century generation. For us, feminism is a completely personal experience and no one definition of feminism is better then another. Also, we feel so lucky to be a small female-run project that is operated by two artists and use our income to create more stuff, produce more projects, and continue to advocate a strong and positive message.
The Me and You x Bing Bang NYC pop-up is at American Two Shot NYC until December 24